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Kuznetsova races into Rome final

SVETLANA Kuznetsova reached the Rome final yesterday after defeating Belarusian teenager Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4.

It is the second consecutive final for the eighth-ranked Russian, who won the Porsche GP in Stuttgart last week. She will face either top-ranked Dinara Safina or Venus Williams, the 1999 Rome champion, in today's final.

"It was good (to win) in two sets," Kuznetsova said. "But it was very difficult for me, she was hitting as hard as she could."

Kuznetsova only made little more than half of her first serves, but hit 23 winners - 10 more than her opponent.

Kuznetsova broke Azarenka three times to capture the first set in 41 minutes.

In the second, the sixth-seeded Azarenka pushed ahead with a break but appeared to lose her concentration as she disputed a call by the umpire in the third game. She lost the next five games and surrendered on the fourth match point.

In Portugal, second-seeded Nikolay Davydenko advanced to the semifinals of the Estoril Open yesterday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Mardy Fish.

Davydenko, who is playing his fifth tournament of the year after a two-month layoff due to a heel injury, also reached the semifinals of the Barcelona Open last month.

In the women's event, sixth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova reached her second final in two weeks with a 6-3, 6-1 win over eighth-seeded German Anna-Lena Groenefeld.


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